Whilst writing the last post, I mentioned the similarities of Maya (physical reality being an illusion) with the situation of the people in the film The Matrix. I thought I could delve into this topic a bit deeper.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In the world of The Matrix (written by Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski) the people of earth have been enslaved by the intelligent machines they created. The machines draw their power from humans by maintaining The Matrix; a virtual reality of earth, which lets the machines connect the unconscious humans to the power system without their knowledge.
Thus, the Matrix is an artificial Maya. But in this Maya, to become liberated or self-realised is to escape the Matrix to 'reality' or the real Maya as opposed to the artificial Maya of the Matrix. Confused? That's the point. Maya is an illusion. Illusions are not real. If you believe the illusion to be real, you are confused. But for the sake of simplicity let's say the Matrix is Maya.
The following is a broad outline of the story with some interesting details.
In the film, Thomas Anderson is an office worker (in the Matrix) who is also Neo an infamous computer hacker who receives messages on his computer monitor about The Matrix. He is contacted by Morpheus who offers him the choice of seeing the Matrix or living in ignorance, he chooses truth. He wakes up in his pod connected to the vast power system and is rescued by Morpheus and his crew in a hovership. After recovering from the physical effects of being in the pod, Neo is enlightened about the truth of reality.
Morpheus believes Neo is 'the One', a special person who has the latent ability to transcend the limitations of the Matrix and defeat the machines. Because Morpheus and his crew are aware of the Matrix they can use their minds to defy the limits of the Matrix's reality to some extent and achieve super human feats.
As part of Neo's training he is asked to jump from one tall building to another, in a virtual reality similar to the Matrix, after witnessing Morpheus achieve this feat. If he believes it is possible, then he can do it. He leaps and plummets to the ground. This failure leads members of the crew to doubt that Neo is 'the One', but Morpheus is not wavered in his conviction.
When Neo has completed training he is taken by Morpheus and Trinity to see the Oracle, a psychic who has predicted an emergence of "the One" but tells Neo he is not 'the One'. On their way to their exit (a hacked telephone line) Neo notices a black cat walk past a doorway and then sees it walk past again. He mentions it to the others as 'de ja vu' and is told this is a glitch in the Matrix meaning the machines have changed the Matrix. They are ambushed by the Agents (powerful sentient computer programs in the guise of secret police), Morpheus is captured and most of the crew is eventually killed due to a betrayal by Cypher; a member of the crew who wants to return to ignorant bliss in the Matrix. Trinity and Neo escape the Agents and return to the hovership. They decide to return to the Matrix to rescue Morpheus who is being interrogated by the Agents, who believe he can lead them to Zion, the underground home of other 'freed' humans.
In an encounter with the Agents, Neo dodges their bullets by moving faster than they can hit him. Trinity tells him she has never seen anyone but the Agents move that fast before.
Later Neo is left alone on a deserted train station with an Agent. He is able to defeat the Agent by matching his speed and strength.
As Neo reaches an exit he is shot by an Agent multiple times in the chest and collapses. Back in the hovership his heart stops because if one injured or dies in the Matrix the belief is so strong that the real body responds in kind. Trinity who was told by the Oracle that she would fall in love with "the One" whispers to Neo that she loves him and kisses him. Neo's heart starts beating and back in the Matrix he recovers and stands up. He now sees the Matrix as it really is, streaming lines of computer code all around him. The Agents fire at Neo, and in slow motion, he sees the bullets heading towards him. He knows he is The One. He says 'no', puts up his hand and the bullets stop in mid air. Agent Smith attacks Neo but Neo effortlessly blocks all punches and kicks him through the air and down the corridor. Neo flies into Smith's body and it explodes into little pieces, with Neo emerging in his place. The other Agents flee in terror.
Neo reaches the exit and the crew are able to destroy the Sentinels (killer machines) that are attacking the hovership. The end.
I will now outline the points of The Matrix story that relate to the concepts such as Maya, religion, mysticism etc.:
Thomas 'Neo' Anderson living in ignorance believing in Maya as reality.
Morpheus (Roman God of dreams) as a God like figure bestowing liberation upon the ignorant.
Morpheus believing in the coming of a messiah or The One, who will rescue the 'chosen' people living in Zion (Zionism: Jewish desire to return to homeland).
Neo dying and being reborn due to the power of love and faith of Trinity.
Neo becoming self realised and liberated from Maya and able to perform superhuman feats.
Neo dying in virtual reality (artificial Maya) and reality because he believes bullets can kill him.
The Oracle seeing beyond time and into possible futures.
Neo's feeling of de ja vu after seeing the same event twice.
Neo's ability (once liberated) to see time as relative and Maya as illusion.
Plenty to think about there.